'Agnes of God' a drama buff's dream
"Agnes of God" is a drama buff's dream when the 1979 John Pielmier play is presented well, and the HART Feichter Studio production fills the bill.
Based on a true incident, the intense melodrama tells the tale of Agnes, a naïve, simple-minded novice nun who remembers little of giving birth in the remote convent but believes God must be the biological father of the child she is accused of killing. The Mother Superior and a court-appointed psychiatrist spar over the way the young nun should be questioned.
The three-character drama is a melting pot of meaty monologues which everybody from Geraldine Page to Diahann Carroll and Bond girl Honor Blackman have sunk their teeth into. After it finished its healthy run on Broadway, the award-winning drama became the darling of theatres all over the country.
HART's cast is perfect. As psychiatrist Dr. Martha Livingston, HART veteran Suzanne Tinsley is stunning. Tinsley didn't play the part. She was the part. Those who have followed Suzanne LaVange Tinsley's career since before HART was HART have always known there isn't anyone she cannot be, onstage. Lyn Donley as Mother Superior Miriam Ruth holds her own and more with the agnostic psychiatrist.
Their exchanges begin with a few chuckles, but they soon escalate to shouting matches. In a tour de force performance, Waynesville resident Hanni Muerdter as the novice Agnes soars to places almost too painful to watch. More than one person was seen crying in the sold-out house Friday night.
It was heartwarming to see Muerdter's acknowledgment of her former teacher Bebe Abel in the program notes. For more than 50 years, Abel introduced thousands of area youngsters to good theatre and nurtured their talents. Before the show, veteran HART director Wanda Taylor said, "Casting is 98 percent of a director's job." Taylor did hers with perfection.
In her program notes, Taylor said "...this is not a play you are likely to 'enjoy'. It forces us to contemplate faith and doubt, innocence and guilt, violence, patience, love, and the nature of God." If it's acting you want, done the way it's supposed to be done, this one is for you. "Agnes of God" may make you uncomfortable, it may make you cry, but one thing's for sure. It will make you think.